We just recently PCSed back to America from being stationed overseas in Okinawa, Japan. I fondly remember all the emotions from three years ago when we were making the “big move across the Pacific,” as we called it. I remember being nervous, scared, stressed and excited. Of course these are all normal reactions to moving to a foreign country that you have never visited and know little about. However, no one told me that it would be just as nervous, scary, stressful and exciting to move back to the states. Here are seven things that surprised me about moving back:
- American stores can be overwhelming. The first time we walked into a big box store upon returning I took a picture because I had forgotten how vast American stores can be. And the malls, y’all, so many stores under one roof. Which leads to….
- Selection overload, my goodness. Did you know there are whole entire refrigerated sections devoted to yogurt? Just yogurt. And that you can buy virtually any type of fruit or vegetable, no matter the season, at the grocery store? We discovered flavor combinations and brands of cookies, cereal, yogurt, chips and drinks that we had never heard of because they haven’t made their way over to Japan yet. Our first shopping trip was about two and a half hours long, and we left with hardly anything because there was just too much to choose from that I needed to revise my game plan. It is still actually tough having so many things to choose from and I find myself missing the days of choosing between item A or item B (and sometimes just item A because B is out of stock).
- The technology will amaze you. I am not sure about other overseas duty stations, but Okinawa ironically isn’t up to date with the cutting edge technology. When we walked into the electronics store to get a new TV we were hit with so many selections of 4K/Ultra HD, 3-D, surround sound, etc. We had to get a lesson in what everything was. Also with cell phones, we forgot what “normal” was. (Note: I hear that the cell phone systems in Okinawa changed right when we left so these statements may no longer be accurate, but they sure were for us while we lived there.)
- It is so strange to head out in town and not have to check how much foreign currency I have on me. I had a “yen coin” holder that was always in my purse. I will admit it was a sad day when I retired my special blue yen holder, but there is freedom in only depending on one type of currency and knowing that your debit card will work everywhere.
- You don’t need to plan for holidays, birthdays and other festivities months in advance. No more checking to see if a company ships to APO/FPO addresses or if they use USPS Priority verses the other delivery services. I still find myself online shopping and thinking, “Oh bummer, their stuff comes by the ‘slow boat.’” Then I have the “duh” moment of “Oh yeah, everything arrives fast here.”
- You can leave hoarders anonymous behind. Overseas I had what I called “two syndrome.” Virtually everything I bought I put two in the cart. Closer to Thanksgiving I found myself with copious amounts of pumpkin pie filling, crescent rolls and pie crust. I must remind myself when shopping now that there is absolutely no reason to hoard items. I don’t need to have a supply of black beans to feed an army. I can come back any day of the week and the store will have what I need.
- American driving is so fast. With typical speed limits starting at 65 plus miles per hour and relearning to drive on the right-hand side of the road, I am pretty sure I still have a white-knuckle death grip on the steering wheel. We have been home for a few months and I still find myself flipping my windshield wipers on instead of my turn signal or getting into the passenger side of the car thinking that it is the driver’s side. My husband has to remind me that the speed limit is 65 miles per hour and most people would prefer I go at least 55 verses my new default speed of 45. Why is everyone in such a hurry anyhow?
All in all, I will say that moving back to America after living overseas was surprisingly difficult. Before we PCSed back it never occurred to me that we might encounter some of the challenges and surprises we did. So if you are living overseas and have a PCS back to America on the horizon, don’t forget to mentally prepare. Adjusting isn’t necessarily without hiccups just because this is what you grew up. In the end, this is home and we are glad to be back. Now excuse me as I go aimlessly walk the aisles at my favorite store, in person and not online, just because I can.